Featuring Joy & Geoff, Big Brother , Little Brother , Sis , and various household (and outdoor) critters...

Monday, 26 March 2012

Simplifying is Way Too Complicated

(sorry in advance - having major issues getting the font size and style to save properly. No idea why.)
I recommended Jen Hatmaker's new book, 7, to our small group. They went for it. So now we are reading it, and I have to keep facing this idea of simplicity and stewardship and accountability.

I will be honest. While I want my main motivator to be the needs of the world, the implications of consumerism on people and the environment, and my ability (financially, time-wise, mind-wise) to respond fully, the issues most constantly in my thoughts have to do with daily life, and my family. I want our kids to grow up being content with practicality and simplicity. I want our work decisions to be more family-friendly and less money-dependent. I want the peace of living in an uncluttered home, with organized closets where it is easy to scan and choose what to wear. I want fewer toys to confiscate when they are not put away, and less resentment toward the kids for taking everything for-granted, and not even using half of what they have (that has somehow happened even without constantly showering them with stuff - it's just there).

I think one of the reasons it is so easy to accumulate is that it is simpler. Sort of. With books, it is way easier for me to order them online, from my couch, than to see if the library has the ones I want, and if not, to see if I can borrow from someone else. And take shoes, for instance. Rather than searching high and low for a pair of sandals that is comfortable for all-day wear, streamlined/dressy/cute enough for casual and semi-dressy social occasions, and neutral enough in colour AND style to go with everything, it is way easier to find 5 pairs at reasonable prices that together satisfy all (most?) of those demands. And as a definite bargain-hunter, I often could find those 5 pairs for the price of that one, elusive pair, and likely save time doing it. That is, at least, how I generally rationalize the situation. But 5 pairs sitting on a crowded shelf is a lot more complicated than one pair. Reducing the stress of visual clutter is just about as important to me at the moment as being financially responsible and addressing issues of materialism and vanity.
The question is, do I consign all my other shoes and find that one pair, try once again to weed out anything that isn't required frequently, or what? Do I somehow, with a large support network standing by to offer words of encouragement, physical restraint, and substantial chocolate bribes, get rid of everything except my two-strap brown Birkenstocks (and then only keep the clothes I would wear with those)?
Yesterday, I posted on Facebook, curious to know how many pairs of shoes people find are necessary for kids. Here is what I had come up with for a child living in Ontario, Canada:
Dress shoes (formal events - purchase as necessary)
Street shoes (for boys, can perhaps double as church shoes if chosen carefully)
Street sandals (for boys, can perhaps double as play & church sandals if chosen carefully)
Play/hiking shoes (in my experience, too dirty for other casual wear - church, shopping, etc.)
Play/hiking sandals (possibly, for boys, same as street sandals, depending on style/material)
Water shoes/flip flops/Crocs (one of this description)
Rubber boots
Winter boots

This does not account for any extra specialty footwear required for specific sports or other activities (which I intend to limit). So, my estimate is about 6 pairs for boys, and closer to 8 for girls - at least when church and semi-dressy occasions are a regular part of the picture (and that is without any "fun" extras for dress and casual wear, or between-season shoes like ballet flats).
Most responses to that post so far are that my Facebook friends' kids tend to have about 5 pairs of shoes (some as low as 4, a few likely closer to 6).
I was then curious to learn what other women in this climate (distinct four-season weather, including quite a bit of snow in winter, to intense heat in summer) have in their shoe collections. I am curious to see the responses as they come in.

In my case, if I could really pare it down, here is a pretty simplified list:

Steel toe boots (needed extremely rarely for work, and taking up precious shelf space)
Winter "play" boots
Winter showing my face in public boots
Rubber boots
Running shoes
Hiking shoes/boots (I go backpacking about once/year)
Hiking sandals (can get dirty)
Flip-flops (can get wet, throw on for pool, popping into the yard for a minute)
Comfort sandals (for everyday, day trips, etc.)
Cute casual sandals
Dressy sandals
Work shoes (dressy-ish, but easy for driving, etc.)
Skinny jeans boots, low heeled/flat
Casual jeans shoes/boots - flat
Casual jeans boots - higher/dressier
Casual flats (for in-between boot and sandal season)
Dark heels
Light heels

Also in the stash:

Bike shoes (optional - came with my road bike, thanks to Kijiji)
Hiking boots with orthotics (covered by insurance after our car accident)
Misc. "other" winter boots (yeah, hard to say goodbye to my Cougars)
Extra rubber boots
Various flip-flops
Crock knock-offs
Various decorative sandals
Various comfort sandals
Various heels and dress shoes (collected over time for various occasions)
Comfort shoes
Additional work shoes
Boots of various descriptions (including my red Docs...classic, but rarely worn)
Ballet flats
"Urban" sneakers

Hmm...think that's pretty much full disclosure, without actual numbers attached. Feel free to share your own experiences! (And be kind - this list looks ridiculous to me, too).

Monday, 19 March 2012

One More Time...or One Million

So, the entire article could be an exact re-print of our lives, every day, many times per day, until it gets to this part, which has never happened:
"Needless to say, when I returned to cover positions in that classroom, I NEVER had to talk to him again about dropping his friends off the teeter-totter"
If only.

Oh, and that exact scenario actually happened on the weekend.

Nothing like constant repeat violations of every basic household and social rule, often within minutes, to make one pretty convinced of one's ineffectiveness as a parent, and as a facilitator of attachment (as I envision will one day be evidenced by blissfully and mutually respectful, serene parent-child relationships. Indeed).

If I was more convinced all this lack of compliance was substantially linked with attachment stuff, I might put more effort into using a more exclusively attachment-oriented approach - or if I was more motivated to do the thing with less evident short-term, but more evident long-term, potential results. Or if I felt strongly that there was an organic inability to link cause-effect and learn from experience. Perhaps there is truth in all of that - we have no way of knowing. But darn it, I would really like to see even a speck of progress in the rule-following and inhibition department after nearly one year. Even a speck would be lovely.

(And yes, it is possible there are some specks I cannot currently see in the midst of a frustrating couple of weeks - because I think a couple of weeks ago, I even commented to Geoff that one child appeared to be managing impulses a bit better. Think I forgot to knock wood when I said that. And I realize his self-control issues are mostly of very little clinical significance. And that the other has a personality perhaps less inclined to "remember" details - like the specifics of rules, among other factors. So I guess this post-script is a bit of a disclaimer, and admission of awareness of my bias at the moment. But I also believe myself to be a fairly accurate observer of things, so I still stand by the spirit of my observations. And I truly believe these boys can be pretty high on the sensitive, strong-willed, determined, feisty, assertive, omnipotent end of things, so I tend to be sensitive and [internally] reactive myself when people suggest it is ALL just "normal" preschooler stuff [or imply, at least in my imagination, that perhaps my perceptions have something to do with having three children of three different ages all at once]. Normal, with a cherry on top, perhaps. And some whipped cream. And when I am more lively one day, and more positive, I need to do a post on 3 and 4 year-old cuteness and brilliance. One of these days. I promise-ish. And I feel the need to state that they are not usually overly defiant...except when they are...which is often, recently - it's actually almost the opposite much of the time...kind of a frighteningly adolescent non-chalant disregarding of rules and instructions, with an occasional, casually-stated, "Well, I didn't want to do what you asked, so I did this instead." Publicly, they may throw fits at times, but most often show off their charming-ness quite nicely - and we deal with things as quietly as possible in public, which means others see lots of cute and not much of the other - or they see the "cute" not-doing-what-has-been-asked-stuff, like crawling across the stage during Sunday School open session while all the other children are seated nicely on the carpet watching the leader. Uh huh.).